With his father bringing him back a present of a model aircraft whenever he returned from a business trip, the young Abdulla Al-Jaidah eventually amassed a collection of more than 200 – and dreamed of becoming a pilot. Colour blindness may have closed off that path, but the Qatari has come as near to it as it is possible to get by taking the business partnering controls at the country’s biggest airline.
Promoted to corporate business support and financial control manager at Qatar Airways earlier this year after more than seven years with the business, Al-Jaidah believes there’s a story behind every number. ‘When you have a number,’ he explains, ‘you can interpret it and use it to support or challenge decision-making. Finance and accounting is basically about analysis and storytelling.’
‘I have to deep-dive into their work and see what they actually do’
Manager business support & financial control – corporate, Qatar Airways, Doha
Joined Qatar Airways as aviation manager finance, Doha; various roles in London, UK, leading to regional business services manager – Europe
Assistant head of accounting, QAPCO, Doha
ACCA studies, London, UK
Senior accountant, Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO), Doha
Certainly, analysis and storytelling skills are critical for Al-Jaidah’s role, which he describes as being ‘a financial controller, finance consultant or business partner for key departments’. He and his team of five analysts work closely with Qatar Airways’ corporate services, group health and safety, HR, internal audit, IT, group legal and medical departments, supporting them on a daily basis.
‘We look into their business cases, we review their budgeting and forecasting, we manage their spend, we work on their KPIs, and we track their expenditure,’ he explains. ‘We also partner with them, sitting with them and seeing how they do business.’ His team might help the HR department to understand the cost of hiring new people, for example, or the medical department to assess the cost of providing care to pilots and flight crew.
‘I have to deep-dive into their work and see what they actually do,’ says Al-Jaidah. ‘This was a challenge for me at the beginning, but once I had a good grasp, I was able to provide them with the right numbers to inform decision-making.’
‘I had to use tact and diplomacy alongside hard facts and figures to ensure performance was not diluted’
Al-Jaidah’s current position, which relies heavily on partnering, continues his track record of building relationships within the airline. He was previously a regional business services manager in Qatar Airways’ European operation, based in London, where he played a key role in a major finance centralisation project. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – with associated plummeting revenues in the aviation sector – only accelerated the pace of change.
Getting everyone on board with the two-year project, designed to cut costs by relocating local finance processing activities to Doha where they could be enhanced by automation, involved liaising with a wide range of departments and colleagues across the business, including airport managers, cargo and commercial managers, and others. With many stakeholders unsettled by the prospect, the project proved an opportunity for Al-Jaidah to hone his soft skills. ‘I had to use tact and diplomacy alongside hard facts and figures to ensure performance was not diluted and the organisation’s best interests remained intact,’ he recalls. ‘I learned a lot from the experience.’
‘Qatar needs more home-grown professional accountants and I'd like to play a part in that’
Passion for aviation
Al-Jaidah initially decided to pursue a career in finance because he enjoyed numbers and wanted the opportunity to learn about different businesses. After graduating from Qatar University with an accounting and finance degree, he joined Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) as a senior accountant. The company encouraged him to study for the ACCA qualification to enhance his professional skills, so he moved to London to study.
A year after qualifying, he was headhunted to join Qatar Airways – his dream employer, in many respects, given his youthful passion for aeroplanes. He spent a year at Qatar Airways’ headquarters in Doha, rotating between different functions before moving to London on secondment. Having studied in the city and spent holidays there as a child, he was thrilled to go back. A few months after his arrival, Qatar Airways’ finance manager for the UK & Ireland resigned and Al-Jaidah jumped at the chance to replace her and gain strategic finance experience – a move that would stand him in good stead when he took on the European business services job three years later.
Revenues for 2022/23 financial year
Al-Jaidah returned to Doha in July 2023 to take up his current position, armed with the ability to oversee change management, and work closely and smartly with colleagues. He also credits the learning from his ACCA qualification and master’s degree from the University of London as instrumental in his career success.
Support for ACCA
ACCA clearly means a great deal to him. He sits on ACCA’s members advisory committee for Qatar and encourages colleagues to pursue the ACCA qualification. ‘Qatar needs more home-grown professional accountants,’ he says. ‘In the longer term, I’d like to play a part in creating a world-class professional institute awarding a qualification based on curriculums taught by ACCA.’
Al-Jaidah is passionate about contributing to the development of Qatar and its National Vision 2030. As a professionally qualified accountant in a high-profile role, he knows he has a huge opportunity to make a difference. ‘I want to give back to my country for everything it has done for me by contributing to the success of the national economy,’ he says.
Whether it’s carrying the ACCA message across the Middle East or piloting the business partnering function at Qatar Airways, Al-Jaidah is going full-throttle to deliver success on all fronts.